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Weird Facts about McCormick® Food Coloring

  • Spices and condiments were probably used as colors as long ago as 1000 b.c. In all likelihood, colorants taken from natural minerals, plants, and animals were developed along with spices.
  • In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, unscrupulous food manufacturers used colorings to disguise spoiled foods.
  • In 1856, Sir William Henry Perkins discovered the first synthetic dye, derived from coal tar.
  • In the United States, the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 attempted to regulate food dyes. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act of 1938 made certification mandatory for any synthetic food color. Synthetic food colors, previously known by their common names, were numbered to avoid confusion with inedible dyes. Three categories were created for designated color names: FD&C, D&C, and External D&C.
  • The 1960 Color Additives Amendment gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to set safe limits for the amount of colors permitted in foods, drugs, and cosmetics. The FDA also required all food coloring to undergo premarketing safety clearances.
  • There are three types of food coloring: natural dyes (anthocyanins, betanins, carotenoids, and chlorophylls), nature identical dyes (synthetic counterparts of colors and pigments derived from natural sources), and synthetic dyes—FD&C dyes (water soluble compounds) and FD&C lakes (aluminum hydrate extensions). As of 2015, FDA regulations permit only seven FD&C dyes and five FD&C lakes in our food supply.
  • The ancient Aztecs used cochineal, a red dye prepared from the dried bodies of female Dactylopius coccus, an insect that lives on cactus plants in Central and South America. Cochineal is still used today in food coloring, medicinal products, cosmetics, inks, and artists’ pigments.
  • In the United States, the first federal regulation concerning food colors was an 1886 act of Congress allowing butter to be colored.
  • Studies show that people judge the quality of food by its color. In fact, the color of a food actually affects a person’s perception of its taste, smell, and feel. Researchers have concluded that color even affects a person’s ability to identify flavor.
  • An extensive survey conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in 1977 estimated that the average American consumes 327.6 milligrams of FD&C color additives every day. That’s sixteen times the Recommended Daily Allowance for iron. According to the survey, every day each American consumes an average of 100 milligrams of FD&C Red Dye No. 40, 43 milligrams of FD&C Yellow Dye No. 5, and 37 milligrams FD&C Yellow Dye No. 6.
Copyright © 1995- Joey Green. "McCormick" is a registered trademark of McCormick & Company, Inc.
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